June 12, 2014
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Mary Howard has always lived in the shadow of her powerful family. But when she’s married off to Henry Fitzroy, King Henry VIII’s illegitimate son, she rockets into the Tudor court’s inner circle. Mary and “Fitz” join a tight clique of rebels who test the boundaries of court’s strict rules with their games, dares, and flirtations. The more Mary gets to know Fitz, the harder she falls for him, but is forbidden from seeing him alone. The rules of court were made to be pushed…but pushing them too far means certain death. Is true love worth dying for?
I really like reading historical fiction and novels centered around the Tudors are some of my favorites. Katherine Longshore's Brazen takes place in and around the court of King Henry VIII, but it's main characters are two people to whom not much attention is usually paid: Mary Howard and Henry Fitzroy.
While Henry VIII's illegitimate son, 'Fitz' and his young wife Mary Howard are usually either on the periphery of Tudor tales or not present at all, this is the chance for their story to be told. While Brazen, is of course fiction, the characters were real people and the larger events, those more worth recording, definitely happened. The intricacies of their daily life and relationships may be imagined but thanks to the factual foundation Longshore used, along with the period phrasing and customs, it is all terribly believable.
As Mary falls for Fitz, as she attempts to discover who Mary is - not just her mother's daughter or her father's daughter or even the Duke's wife - readers won't be able to help falling for both of them, as well.
Life in Henry's court is a perilous situation for all of them - not just Mary and Fitz but Queen Anne, Mary's friends Margaret and Madge and everyone else, too. It is a great time for a story to take place, all that much better because it's when it happened. The juxtaposition of Fitz and Mary's relationship, so tender, innocent and heartbreaking with the unraveling court is fantastic.
Most know that Henry VIII's wives did not fare so well. The more you know about the time period and the characters, the more you will know what is to come as you read Brazen. Anne is only Henry's second queen and seeing some of the beginnings of what he put into effect, how laws and feelings changed while seeing these two teens try to discover themselves and each other, is a great pairing.
The happenings of the King, Queen and courtly politics add more drama, tension and suspense to Fitz and Mary's tale.
They are people who lived half of a millennia ago, who face dangers we can only imagine. They had to deal with rules and restrictions that likely seem absurd to us (for Fitz's health, the could not consummate their relationship until the King gave his permission). Understanding all of that, though, they are people, characters you can identify with and one's you'll feel for. Even, or perhaps especially, know (some of) what's to come.
I really appreciated Longshore's note at the end of the novel about what is known, what was factual and what was imagined. It's nice not to wonder how much of a story was true (or to wonder without some facts). The novel was set at the perfect time in the character's lives and gave us a glimpse itno a relationship I have not seen imagined or examined elsewhere. Brazen is a very enjoyable read.
(Longshore's previous novels Gilt and Tarnish are Royal Circle books but it is not necessary to read either or both of them prior to reading Brazen. They are all Tudor novels but standalone tales that do enhance each other but don't have to be read consecutively.)
thank you to the publisher for my copy through NetGalley for review